‘You violated the trust of everyone’: Graff receives two-year sentence for sexually abusing teenage girl

Schnack and Graff

Jonathan Graff, right, sits next to his attorney, Drew Schnack, during his sentencing hearing in Adams County Circuit Court Wednesday morning. | Pool photo by Matt Hopf/Herald-Whig

QUINCY — Judge Roger Thomson told Jonathan Graff he “violated the trust of everyone” in sentencing him Wednesday morning to two years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for sexually abusing a teenage girl.

Graff, 31, a youth basketball coach and athletic trainer, appeared at the hearing in Adams County Circuit Court with his attorney, Drew Schnack. He pled guilty on Aug. 31 to one count of criminal sexual abuse, a Class 4 felony punishable for between one and three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The victim read a statement during the hearing. She was accompanied by a friend as she sat about 10 feet from Graff, who had been training her for a sport she played while in his role as an employee of TAP (Total Athlete Performance).

The victim said she went to Graff to talk about her father, with whom she no longer has contact.

“Instead, I even lost more trust,” she said. “I felt extremely guilty for something that shouldn’t have happened and I had no control over.”

Assistant state’s attorney Laura Keck detailed in her argument how Graff used the victim’s trust to abuse her, fondling her sex organ outside her pants twice, and how he continued to contact her after she told him to stop.

“(The victim) trusted the defendant with information about her family … and her relationship with her father,” Keck said. “The defendant could have chosen to simply tell her he didn’t have time to hear about those things. It was not part of his job. He was there to help her with their training. Instead, he used the struggles that (the victim) chose to confide in him to get her to trust him even more. 

“He used the struggles she was having to convince her to stay late so that they were the only two people at the facility where he was working. He used these struggles to convince her to meet him at his house in the evening. Then you went further, texting her and sending her messages on social media, telling her things like, ‘Age is just a number,’ within only a few weeks of meeting her.”

Keck also said Graff requested for the victim to send “inappropriate pictures” — which she refused to do — and prove to him “she’s not a little girl.” She said Graff “methodically” planned to have her alone and claimed he knew what he was doing was wrong. 

“He kept telling the victim not to tell anyone, because he could go to jail,” Keck said. “Then when (the victim) told him to leave her alone, he stalked her. He sent her messages about where she was and what she was doing. He left presents for her in her car. She could not get away from him.”

Keck asked Thomson to sentence Graff to three years in the Department of Corrections.

The victim said she’s lost many friends and has cut herself off socially. She said she can’t study or do homework “to my ability,” and she has suffered panic attacks while playing her sport. She said she has lost “countless” hours of sleep, even when prescribed medicine to help with sleeping, and she “stopped eating for two months.”

“We were told not to go on our phones, but I physically cannot stop reading the comments that made me feel awful,” the victim said. “I wonder how people can defend him. … I felt so stupid for allowing him to take advantage of me, blaming myself for what had happened. I felt so guilty for everything. I often have flashbacks that scare me. I’m scared because I don’t want to wake up next to you. I’m scared because I don’t want to find stuff on my car when I never told you where it was. I’m scared because I want to go out with my friends without being watched. I’m scared of seeing you at my games. 

“I hope and pray no one will ever have this experience. And no, I’m not going to prove to you I’m not a little girl … because I literally am.”

Graff’s head was down, but he did not react to the victim’s statement or to his sentence.

Schnack told Thomson he thought Graff was “a good candidate for probation,” pointing out he is a college graduate with a full-time job, “significant” family support, no prior criminal history and no drug or alcohol abuse issues. He also noted findings from sex offender testing in a pre-sentence investigation report indicated “there’s every reason to believe” he would successfully complete probation.

“For violating the trust of this young lady and doing what he did, he’s accepted responsibility for that. He’s admitted what he did,” Schnack said. “The bottom line is all the tests he’s been through and everything that has been done all points to a sentence of successful probation. He appears to be in need of treatment. He’s amenable to treatment, and he is an appropriate candidate for treatment. 

“He has already done 168 days for pure punishment. That is a significant amount of time for someone with no prior criminal record for a Class 4 felony.”

Schnack also noted letters were submitted to the court on Graff’s behalf.

Given a chance to make a statement, Graff told Thomson, “Everything I wish to say was written the statement already given in the (pre-sentence investigation).” 

In his ruling, Thomson said Graff, “by the duties of his position,” was obligated to prevent the offense he committed by him. 

“The defendant utilized his professional reputation or position in the community to commit the offenses … and afforded him easier means of committing (the crime) by gaining access to the minor victim,” he said. “A sentence is necessary to deter others from committing the same crime. The defendant held a position of trust or supervision as defined in statute — teacher, Scout leader, babysitter, daycare worker and, not specifically named, assistant coach.

“Mr. Graff, you violated the trust of everyone, including those who wrote letters in your support. I don’t think any of those individuals would ever have suspected you being capable of the offense you’ve committed. Counsel argues you are a successful member of society with a college education, employment, family support. You have everything going your way. You still made this choice. This was not a spur-of-the-moment, one-time bad choice. This was a two-month … grooming of a minor victim who you intended to sexually abuse.”

As part of the plea negotiations, a count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, a Class 2 felony punishable for between three and seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, was dismissed. Graff received credit for 168 days served in the Adams County Jail.

Thomson said Graff must register as a child sex offender in accordance with state statute. 

“My understanding is (registering is) for life at this point, but the statute could be amended,” Thomson said.

Graff also was an assistant coach on the girls basketball team at Quincy Notre Dame and a youth boys and girls basketball coach for a local AAU team.

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